From Stuff to Self

A journey continents, countries, states, cities, and zip codes

Words by Falak Zaffer Ghatala

Somewhere between “loving people and using things,” a phrase I learned listening to Joshua Field Millburn, I’ve ended up with a lot of things by super loving people.

My journey of “stuff” began in 1996, when my parents and I moved from India to America. We travelled over two continents with over 13 large suitcases worth of stuff. For a family of five moving from a different country, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but from then on we’ve only accumulated more.

Following my marriage, in 2007, my parents decided to move back to India—leaving me with a bunch of family heirlooms passed on through generations, continents, countries, states, and now cities to follow me around. Since then, I’ve moved 9 times in 13 years, carrying each of these heirlooms in bubble-wrapped, packed boxes with me. I recently moved into a house, and now those boxes are neatly lined up in our basement. I would need to buy or build something to showcase the items, but my husband and I have been very conservative in our spending and have been decorating with a purpose.

My family often bombards us for our choice of not buying a dinning table, even a year after our move; but we have let those voices drown out a bit. We are still in search of the table that both serves our purpose and brings us joy in the long term. So for now we reserve our dinning room space as our prayer and meditation area—it serves us well for the time being.

Living in a South Asian family, where joint families and large gatherings are the norm, we are constantly hosting, cooking, feeding, gifting, cleaning, and repeating. Strangely, this pandemic has calmed things down for us tremendously. I have been able to focus on my space, my home, without the worry of accumulating more.

I know I’m super blessed to have so many people in my life, but honestly I’m stuck trying to find a balance. I’ve been thinking that the best way for me to move forward is to focus on my own things and my space, which is sparingly small, and hope that people will follow suit.

I’ve realized that I have always spent conservatively and have never truly felt pulled into consumerism; therefore, I find simple living easy to do. But I can also see that it may be harder for others. Mindfulness and intentionality cannot be forced. They can come only when we appreciate the value of nothingness, the value of self over stuff.

Falak Zaffer Ghatala

Falak Zaffer Ghatala is an Indian-born American Muslim. She left behind a lucrative biotech career to help the most vulnerable in society, the homeless and hungry. She currently writes as “The Muslim Monk” to help spread compassion, empathy, and kindness in the world. She would consider herself to be an aspiring minimalist while focusing on maximizing her ability to go out into the world and do good.

Website
TheMuslimMonk.com
Instagram
@ThisMuslimMonk
Twitter
@ThisMuslimMonk

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Inside Minimalism is our series of exclusive essays on simple living. Each essay is written by our team of writers who are passionate about helping you craft a simpler life. Supported by their own personal experiences, we want to inspire and encourage you to clear the path of life’s stuff, so you can get to where you really want to be.

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